Why is Ashland University involved in Correctional Education?

The work of Ashland University's Correctional Education Program supports AU's Accent on the Individual motto, and its held belief that everyone deserves a second chance, including a second chance at an education.

What is Ashland University’s Mission, Vision & Core Values?

Mission Statement: Ashland University, guided by its Christian heritage, is a comprehensive, private university that provides a transformative learning experience, shaping graduates who work, serve and lead with integrity in their local, national and global communities.

Vision: Ashland University aspires to be a nationally-recognized private university, where traditions of excellence are fostered and students discern their life calling and thrive.

Core Values:

  • Accent on the Individual – Pledges the best individual and collective efforts to challenge and encourage each member of the university within a supportive community.
  • Spirituality and Faith – Affirms Christian values as a core element of the university’s institutional identity, emphasizing faith in God, moral integrity, and respect for the diversity of values and faith of each person in a community of learning.
  • Character Development – Promotes integrity, self-discipline, responsibility, compassion, leadership, service and good citizenship.
  • Academic Freedom – Supports free, open and critical inquiry for both students and faculty necessary for intellectual and professional development.
  • Excellence in Teaching – Emphasizes teaching supported by research and scholarship as the University’s central responsibility.

How long has Ashland University been providing Correctional Education?

In 1964, Ashland University began offering instruction to individuals at the Ohio State Reformatory. Faculty volunteered to teach college-level courses in line with AU’s mission of outreach and redemption. Between 1964 and today, AU has provided post-secondary education in the form of associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and Advanced Job Training certificates. Ashland University is pleased to be the home for the largest and longest continually operating, post-secondary, correctional education program in the United States.

How many students are enrolled in the Correctional Education program and where is it offered?

Ashland University is the largest program in the nation – serving more than 5,000 incarcerated students with post-secondary education in minimum- to maximum-security environments in more than 120 facilities over a dozen states.

How many students have graduated from Ashland University through the Correctional Education program?

Pell grants for those incarcerated in state and federal correctional facilities was restored for some colleges and universities via the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative in 2016.

Total degrees awarded from Fall 2016 through Spring 2021:     1,142

    • Associate of Arts degrees conferred:   923
    • Bachelor of Arts degrees conferred: 219

How many people are employed by the Correctional Education program at Ashland University?

Ashland University employs more than than 200 instructors (adjunct and full-time faculty) every semester. Additionally, the program has over 55 staff members at our Ashland campus in Ohio and over 120 additional employees working inside correctional facilities around the country. Also, support services such as Library-Instructional Resource Center, Student Accessibility Services, Math E-Tutor program, Veteran Services, Subject Matter Experts and CP-Tech personnel participate in Correctional Education. The University has created an interdepartmental system of collaboration across the university to deliver an effective and efficient program to serve incarcerated and post-incarcerated students. All of these departments -- including support departments such as records, registration, financial aid and human resources -- play a vital role in the delivery of the successful academic programs to all of AU’s students, including those who are incarcerated.

What are the eligibility criteria for students?

Ashland’s program focuses on providing access to thousands of incarcerated men and women who would have no other opportunity to attend college in a correctional facility.  Students must meet the eligibility requirements for students at Ashland University.  This includes having earned a high school diploma or High School equivalency (GED®, HiSET or TASC). Students must also be able to cover the cost of tuition; state-funding, self-pay, Pell grant, scholarship or other means.  There is also additional criteria set in cooperation with the individual correctional entities we serve related to length of time remaining in sentence, disciplinary record, compentency-based assessment scores, "good time" credit, etc.

What are the program costs for the student and facility?

There are no out-of-pocket expenses for the students enrolled in the Ashland program or for the facility housing the students. The cost of textbooks, tuition and technology are covered by Pell grants and AU university scholarships. Most students in the program receive financial aid through the Pell Grant and Ashland is grateful for the continued support of the Pell grant and scholarships to support its mission in Correctional Education.

What are the degree programs offered?

Each degree program is developed in conjunction with the appropriate academic department and approved by AU's Faculty Senate. Ashland offers two associate degrees which require a minimum of 60 semester hours to complete:

  • Associate of Arts Degree in General Studies
  • Associate of Arts Degree with a concentration in Business (63 hours) 

Ashland offers three bachelor’s degree options requiring 120 semester hours to complete:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Applied Communication degree with four different options for a minor -- business administration, business management, sociology, religion or Christian ministry
  • Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with Science & Professional Practicum Concentrations
  • Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies

The degrees and the courses have the same student learning outcomes as courses on campus and have the same academic rigor.

How is the program structured?

Ashland serves students with face-to-face courses in Ohio and distance education in other states. Distance education is offered utilizing a distance learning modality with a secure online connection and secure device, either a notebook computer or keyboard-equipped tablet.

What are the advantages of distance learning on secure devices (notebooks and tablets)?

Students interact with course material (videos, handouts, assignments, quizzes and tests) and communicate with their instructors through their devices. The advantage of completing the courses online is that the students can work any time during the day or night as their schedules allow. In addition, there are many situations where the only means of providing college in prisons is via distance education when face to face courses are not an option.

Do the students have to pay for their supplies?

Except in cases where the Department of Corrections handles the issuance of the devices, Ashland provides all the technology, textbooks, and instructional supplies for each student. The expense is covered by Pell grants, Ashland University scholarships and several other sources.

What advising services are provided?

Ashland University has a dedicated team of enrollment and academic advising support staff who assist students in their progress toward their academic degree. These professionals ensure that students are meeting all requirements of their intended degree by reviewing course registration and graduation requirements. They also ensure that every student is meeting university policies and maintain student records for compliance with accreditation standards. Students also have access to on-site professionals who serve as a liaison with university staff.

How many classes can the student enroll in per semester?

Students are able to enroll in up to four classes each term, and those who wish to take fewer courses may do so as well.

Are there on-site personnel who can meet face to face with the student?

A site director is assigned to each location. This person is an Ashland University employee whose job is to serve students and act as a liaison with the facility and Ashland University. The site director, along with the instructors, are the main program contacts for students. They help students register for classes, resolve issues with technology, get answers to questions students have and distribute textbooks and other supplies.

Is Ashland University part of the Department of Education's "Second Chance Pell" program and when was AU awarded the opportunity to participate?

Yes, Ashland University was selected to participate in the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative program in 2016 during the Obama Administration.

If a degree is not completed while incarcerated, are there opportunities to complete the degree after incarceration?

Courses are available for re-entry students who have completed a minimum of 6 credit hours and remain Pell eligible to complete their degree. They can do this without financial responsibilities for tuition, textbooks or fees. Financial aid is also available to students who are not Pell eligible. The program is set up in such a way that a student can be enrolled in courses within a facility one day, get released, then login the next day from any computer on the outside to continue his/her instruction.

Does Ashland University have courses focused specifically on issues students will face upon reentry?

Yes, courses are available to help with rehabilitation and reorientation back into society. These courses are credit-bearing, apply toward their degree and are of benefit to the student even if the student is only able to participate for a semester or two before being released.

Why have no other colleges expanded their programs like Ashland?

Ashland has many unique advantages over other Correctional Education Post-Secondary programs. Some of these advantages are:

  • Digital/online/remote learning -- This modality has been gaining popularity across all educational strata in the past several years. This allows Ashland to offer more courses to more students.
  • Student learning flexibility – Ashland’s programming fits the students’ schedules and allows them to work, meet obligations and other activities that a strict face-to-face schedule might not.
  • High-quality education -- Ashland’s Correctional Education classes are the same courses taken by the traditional undergraduate student and are often taught by the same instructor.
  • Understanding of correctional culture
    • Long-term commitment -- Because of Ashland University’s experience, it has a unique understanding of the challenges of working in the correctional environment.
    • Student advocacy – Ashland wants to provide the hope that a high-quality education provides to the students who are willing to put in the hard work to earn a degree. AU also understands it serves at the discretion of each state Department of Corrections, prison, and jail and that these each have their own unique rules, regulations, and culture.
Does Ashland University offer face-to-face courses in prison?

Yes, it has been providing face-to-face education at a number of Ohio locations since 1964.

Who determines the technology used in the facility and is there a charge to the student to use the technology?

The tablet or notebook system is determined by the facility or the state’s Department of Corrections, not the University. There is no charge to a student for the use of the device for educational purposes or for communicating with the university faculty and staff.

Is Ashland University a for profit university?

No, Ashland is a private, nonprofit university authorized by the Ohio Department of Higher education and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Are AU’s CE courses and programs accredited?

All credits earned are accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. The courses AU provides in the correctional environment are the same courses taught to their traditional on- campus and online students. They follow the same learning outcomes and, in many cases, are taught by the same faculty. Every facility has a site director to assist students with whatever they need in order to be successful in their studies.

How has the pandemic affected operations?

Because AU college in-prison courses are distance education courses delivered via secure technology, students have been able to continue their courses without interruption and AU has even been able to expand to new facilities through the pandemic. No courses have had to cease and operations are continuing at all facilities. There have been some temporary access restrictions for on-site directors. However, there has been no disruption of programming due to the pandemic.